How Virgin Trains convinced the public to audition to be the voice of its toilets

Cubaka was commended for Best Automotive or Transport Content Marketing Strategy at The Drum Content Awards 2019 for its ‘Toilet Role’ campaign for Virgin Trains. In this case study, the agency reveals the challenges faced and the strategies used to deliver this successful campaign.

The challenge

If you've ever travelled with Virgin Trains, there's a good chance you'll have encountered their talking toilets. The current toilet voice had been in place for over a year, so it was about time for a reboot.

In February 2019, Virgin Trains briefed us that they were looking to encourage people to audition to become the new voice(s) of the toilet. They explained that they were launching the campaign as a PR story. The front man was to be Dean Gaffney.

Virgin Train’s PR agency The Romans was in the planning phase of what was to become the launch video. Virgin asked us if there was a way to tie in with the PR story and to drive entries through social channels.

The primary campaign objective was to drive competition entries through the Messenger bot, with a key target of 400 entries. In addition, Virgin Trains worked with their media agency Manning Gotileb to set additional KPI targets based on previous performance:

  • 860 new messaging conversations.
  • £10.17 cost of new messaging conversation.
  • 4,225 clicks to messenger.
  • 0.18% CTR.
  • 15% engagement rate (based on brand average).
  • 20.35% CVR (Click to New Messaging Conversation) of 20.35% target.

The strategy

Our first thought was ‘crikey, asking someone to audition via social is very high barrier’. In the age of ‘you are what you post’, the idea that someone would want to record their voice and post it on social for all to see seemed prohibitive.

We were concerned that this would severely limit the number of competition entries. We needed a way for people to submit entries away from the prying eyes of the main social feed. So, we made it fun, and private - like playing Candy Crush on the loo.

Instead of asking people to share their voice recording on their public social feed, we saw the privacy of Facebook Messenger as a better option. We also figured that an automated chatbot would allow us to manage a large number of entries.

With Dean Gaffney as the front man for the launch video, we knew there was only one thing for it – the whole audition process would be run through Facebook Messenger with Dean Gaffney as your obliging host. Enter the Gaffbot.

The campaign

After watching the launch video, audiences were invited to try their luck via The Gaffbot (please have a play - best on mobile).

We knew that inviting people to chat to Gaffney in the safety of Facebook Messenger would be irresistible to many and our creatives saw endless possibilities for bringing the Gaffbot to life and making it fun.

Since our primary KPI was competition entries, we had to structure the Gaffbot in a way that made it fun, quick and easy to enter. Users were greeted by Gaffney, given a brief introduction and whistle-stop warmup before being invited to record the pre-written message using the Facebook Messenger audio record function. The whole entry experience was aided by a selection of fun GIFs featuring Gaffney reacting to users.

Once users had recorded their voice, they had officially auditioned. After that they were free to enjoy some quality Dean time – we built in plenty of extras by way of a ridiculous multiple choice quiz to keep people interacting with The Gaffbot.

To get some bonus reach from the campaign we created a branded Giphy (GIFney) account and uploaded the GIFs. They’ve had over 14 million views so far which was a nice bonus.

The results

If anything, the was too successful. We received over 5,200 entries against our target of 400. Each had to be manually sorted through. This was a bittersweet process.

In fact, The Gaffbot substantially exceeded all targets:

  • 5,209 entries for the Voice of the Toilet competition vs 400 target – x13 higher
  • 6,164 new messaging conversations vs 860 target – x7 higher
  • Cost of new messaging conversation of £1.42 vs £10.17 target – 86% decrease
  • 8,416 clicks to messenger vs 4,225 target – x3.5 higher
  • CTR of 0.60% vs 0.18% target – x3.3 higher
  • 23% Engagement Rate vs 15% Virgin Trains average – 53% increase
  • CVR (Click to New Messaging Conversation) of 73.24% vs 20.35% target

The Bot Platform, who hosted The Gaffbot, said of the campaign: “The Virgin Trains/Cubaka bot was one of the most creative and interesting scripts we've worked with… user engagement being almost double than most [other] bots.”

Overall the bot managed to talk to just over 9000 users, sent a whopping 125,000 messages and collected 5209 entries for the Voice of the Toilet competition. Not too bad for a bot that was only live for just over three weeks!

Emma Martell, head of social content at Virgin Trains said: “The bot was really smart because it avoided various issues in a really funny and creative way…I think the fact that people were actually telling the bot how great they thought it was says a lot!”

This campaign was commended in The Drum Content Awards 2019. If you think you can do better, register your interest in next year's awards.

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